Offseason In Review: Minnesota Twins

Kicking off our Offseason In Review series, the Twins.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

This winter Twins GM Bill Smith signed Pavano and Thome again, albeit at larger commitments given their fine 2010 campaigns.  He cut ties with Hardy after one season, gambling on the international market with Nishioka rather than dealing with the weak domestic middle infield market.  The Twins also saw a large chunk of their 2010 bullpen sign elsewhere and chose not to sign replacements.

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By re-signing Pavano, the Twins maintained the starting pitching depth that allowed them to place fifth in the AL in rotation ERA in 2010.  Pavano has begun to shake the reputation he acquired during his Yankees stint.  Including the playoffs he's racked up 433 1/3 innings over 2009-10, so he's been a horse.  Still, Smith did well in waiting him out and limiting the term to two years.  Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly and Jorge de la Rosa were the only free agent starters to sign for three-plus years this offseason.  Pavano and Scott Baker are solid sidekicks to ace Francisco Liriano, who I do not believe the Twins are open to trading.       

At $3MM, the money committed to Thome remains reasonable.  He's primed to hit his 600th home run in a Twins uniform after turning down more than $4MM from the Rangers.  Once again Smith's patience paid off and he was able to negotiate a slight Minnesota discount.  On the other hand, a net price of $4.9MM for Kubel is fairly steep if he ends up spending most of his time as a platoon DH.  Hideki Matsui and Jack Cust are coming off better offensive seasons and signed for less.

The Hudson-Hardy middle infield combination is gone after one season, with the Twins importing Nishioka from Japan to play second or shortstop and going with Alexi Casilla for the other position.  Spending $14.3MM on a player with no MLB experience is a gamble, but it would have cost just under $6MM to retain Hardy.  Rather than simply non-tendering Hardy after another disappointing season, the Twins paired him with Harris and cleared $1.25MM in salary they otherwise would have been burdened with.  That the return was Hoey and Jacobson suggests the Hardy trade was more of a salary dump than anything else.

As MLBTR's Mike Axisa outlined a month ago, the Twins' bullpen took a big hit with the losses of Crain, Guerrier, Fuentes, Rauch, and Mahay.  In hindsight, the risk of offering arbitration to Type A free agent Guerrier and Type B free agent Rauch might have been worthwhile.  But more importantly, the Twins were wise not to commit multiyear contracts to their departing relievers.  They've got Joe Nathan coming back and another year of Matt Capps, and can piece together the rest of the pen without adding more veterans to an already tapped-out payroll.  The bullpen depth doesn't look good on paper, but Smith can always make midseason additions if no one emerges.

Like most teams, the Twins have concerns heading into Spring Training.  The bullpen must be sorted out.  A slew of key players are coming off "cleanup" type surgeries, and Justin Morneau is still recovering from last year's concussion.  Middle infield roles must be determined for Nishioka and Casilla.  And third baseman Danny Valencia must avoid a sophomore slump.  But these were not issues the Twins could have solved by opening the free agent checkbook in tandem with the division rival Tigers and White Sox.  Smith's trademark patience resulted in significant savings this winter, perhaps leaving some midseason flexibility for trades.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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44 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Minnesota Twins"


Ricky Bones
4 years 6 months ago

The Twins look feeble every year yet manage to somehow put it together & be a major player during the regular season. They’re about the only team I’d be remiss to sell short on.

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

Part of the reason I love being a Twins fan is that outsiders say the Twins look “feeble” even when they’re clearly not.

suffern
4 years 6 months ago

An entire article on the Twins and not one mention of Joe Mauer. That’s some incredible writing talent/restraint! “)

4 years 6 months ago

Nishioka and Casilla will be key in determining whether or not the Twins repeat as AL Central champions. With the loss of Hardy, Hudson, and Punto, middle infield could be a big weakness if either of those players do not pan out.

Also, no mention of Kyle Gibson? He could be in the rotation at mid-season.

4 years 6 months ago

The loss of Hudson will be felt the most, having a gold glove 2nd basemen with a pretty decent bat. Alexi Casilla is better defensively then Hudson but his bat is the real question.

Rick Garcia
4 years 6 months ago

hard to beat a time that has a mustache like Carl Pavano

jhawk90
4 years 6 months ago

Very excited to see Nishioka. Casilla, again, not so much. Keep an eye on Plouffe.

If even one of Baker/Blackburn/Slowey return to form, this could be a very solid rotation.

nick1538
4 years 6 months ago

Very true… the starting Middle IF for the MN Twins could end up Being Trevor Plouffe at SS and Luke Hughes at 2B.

I like Baker and or Slowey to have a bounce back years. They dealt with injuries last year, but they weren’t major. If they are healthy, the rotation will be very solid. Both of these guys had great years in ’08… Baker: 172 IP, 3.45 ERA, Slowey: 160 IP, 3.99 ERA

4 years 6 months ago

Casilla was ON FIRE at the end of 2010. You could see that Gardy wanted to play him but just couldn’t bench Hudson due to well seniority I guess. I would have rather seen Casilla in there the last 2 months of ’10 than Hudson.

$1529282
4 years 6 months ago

Casilla hit .271/.303/.365 from August 1 to the end of the season and slipped to .258/.281/.323 in September/October. Nothing about him was “on fire.”

Twins fans remember Alexi’s three big walk-off singles over the past three years and use that as an irrational logic behind supporting him. Look at his stats before you make a comment like that. Casilla played WORSE as the season wore down.

hawkny1
4 years 6 months ago

Morneau is the key to 2011 for the Twins. If he returns to form, watch out MLB! If not, good coaching, alone, may keep the Twins at or near the top of the AL Central, but the Twins will be no match for the elite teams in the other two divisions…. On the down side, Twins have question marks, both offensively and defensively, at every infield position, except catcher. There are also big questions concerning their “revamped middle inning relief corps and whether Joe Nathan can return to be the closer of old in Minnesota.

4 years 6 months ago

I take issue with most of what you said.

1) Morneau was not the key to winning the Central title in 2010. A guy name Thome was. 94 without a perrenial MVP candidate means they have a great deal of talent coming from other areas of the club. Did someone whisper Delmon Young?
2) They have no questions DEFENSIVELY at ANY of the infield positions. None at all! Valencia at third, Casilla at short, Morneau or Cuddyer at 1st have all proven to be rock solid defensively. If this ? you have is with Nishioka, his stats from japan say he’s very skilled defensively.
3) Twins have plenty of solid arms, in fact its really more of a WEALTH of solid arms for long relief. Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins all have MLB Starting experience. Looks exceedingly strong to me.
4) Joe Nathan doesn’t have to return to the closer of old because we have an ALL STAR closer in Matt Capps. Nathan just has to be an effective pitcher whether he’s setting up, long relief, or specialty guy. He’s a plus no matter what as long as his velocity is strong.

It pretty obvious you don’t follow the Twins cuz if you did, you realize how ridiculous your comment is. Something tells me you are a fan of a rival who only hopes everything you said were actually the case. Twins Forever!

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

Brian, I love the Twins as much as anyone can, but Cuddyer is dreadful defensively at first base.

PostMoBills
4 years 6 months ago

He can be dreadful at FIELDING. Great at throwing, and average defensively.

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

His arm doesn’t do much at first base, though. He’s well-cast in right field.

4 years 6 months ago

I totally disagree with you. Cuddyer is not dreadful and I only put him there to spell Morneau every once and awhile. We all know who man’s first for the Twins and Morneau is phenomenal on defense!

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

Argh. I don’t really know what to say here. I never miss a game, and I can’t remember the last time I saw as many misplays over there as Cuddyer has made. It’s not about disagreeing or agreeing. He is intrinsically bad at fielding first base, because he has spent the last several years working hard to be awesome at another position.

Also, Morneau is a league-average first baseman. If you think what he’s doing is phenomenal, you should really see more games around the league. I’m not trying to be insulting…I’m just saying, most major league first basemen are capable of what Morneau does with the glove.

4 years 6 months ago

As a White Sox fan, it’s easy to say “we had a tremendous offseason and the Twins didn’t have as good as one, we should be able to pull this off and win the Division!”

But in reality, the Twins are always a threat to be a solid, competitive team all year, regardless of lacking media hype. They always play hard, smart baseball.

Damn Twins.

4 years 6 months ago

Great writeup Tim. I think the Twins pen will be just fine. Crain was a great second half (lousy in the first half) setup man. Theoretically you could say either Matt Capps or Joe Nathan will be replacing his duties, I consider either pitcher an upgrade. Down the stretch Rauch, Mahay, Fuentes and Flores were rarely used anyway. Fuentes was used to mainly get a tough lefty out and Capps made a struggling Rauch simply unusable in any situation. All four guys have replacements waiting to step in (Neshek, Hendricks, Gutierrez, Slama). I would rather have the young hungry group over the departing one. This leaves a key aspect to the bullpen that indeed has a hole, long relief. Matt Guerrier was a great long relief pitcher for years but you have to remember that he at one point was a virtual unknown who took the role and ran with it. This is where the Twins have many options. When a ballclub has starting pitching depth it often results in strong long relief as competition for 5 spots will inevitably push a worthy candidate into the pen. Names like Anthony Swarzak, Glen Perkins, and one of either Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn could all emerge as stalwart long relief options. Midseason, the Twins could squeeze another starter into the pen as many think Kyle Gibson will emerge as a rotation regular. I think the american league and indeed all of baseball will be surprised that an apparant area of weakness will in fact be an area of extreme strength. Twins know pitching, this I can assure you of.

essob22
4 years 6 months ago

Good post. I am in agreeance with you. Don’t forget Jeff Manship as well. I really hope that Hoey emerges as the power arm that the Twins have been desperately needing in the past few years. Sounds like the Braves fans were a little down on the loss of Scott Diamond, would be really nice if he could help fill in the left handed specialty role with Mijares. And I’m feeling slama will get it done in the bigs this year. Oh yeah and if Neshek returns to form the Twins will have one of the best bullpens in the bigs. I know there are question marks but the ceiling is really high for this bullpen.

4 years 6 months ago

Exactly. Guys like Jeff Manship, Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett will all be valuable pieces in that pen. I truly do not think the level of talent has regressed at all, I think this pen will be a rock for years to come.

justincb
4 years 6 months ago

agreeance?

essob22
4 years 6 months ago

Main Entry: agreeance
Part of Speech: n
Definition: the act of agreeing
Example: Usage of the site constitutes agreeance with these terms.

and thank you for you contribution to the article. I really hate when people just read comments trying to find grammatical errors. Get a life. And before you reply to my post saying that the word agreeance isn’t accepted by some dictionaries and is deemed grammatically incorrect to some people, I already know this. And once again thank you for the contribution to the article and my post.

justincb
4 years 6 months ago

Sound a little defensive there, bud. Also, you forgot to include the rest of that dictionary entry “Usage: considered obsolete and a bastardization of ‘agreement”

Bryz
4 years 6 months ago

You mention the group of Neshek, Hendricks, Gutierrez, and Slama like they’re givens to improve the bullpen this year. However, Hendricks and Gutierrez are guaranteed to start the season in the minors, and Slama has a slight possibility of doing the same.

Also, Rauch was not “rarely used” after the Capps acquisition, and Rauch wasn’t really struggling, either. He had a bad few games, the Twins overreacted, and then he returned to normal.

twins33
4 years 6 months ago

Yeah, those guys aren’t givens. Slama may be, because he’s getting old and it’s about time he proved something. Either way, the Twins have over 10 guys to fight for 1-2 bullpen spots. I don’t believe all of them will fail, so I feel surprisingly good about the bullpen situation.

4 years 6 months ago

The point is we have talented pitchers waiting for a chance to prove their metal. Some clubs do not have this type of depth within their system, Twins do. The Twins have put themselves in a great position in terms of replenishing a pitching staff with young, talented arms. It’s pretty much business as usual for the developmentally minded model organization.

4 years 6 months ago

If you read my post it clearly states that these are options waiting in the wings. I can see all having an impact for the twins in 2011. Rauch was rarely used down the stretch. I watched every single twins game in 2010 and he was only brought in when the twins were either leading by a ton or losing by a ton. He had a fine stint as the closer but the moment Matt Capps came in and took his job, Rauch simply was not the same. As a twins fan, I’m excited to see what our bullpen has to offer in 2011, it will once again be strong. I feel sorry for the White Sox who feel Crain can close games, that laser straight fastball has got to be one of the easiest pitches for big leaguers to hit. The twins pen will emerge as one of the strongest league wide, I just hope Gardy can quickly adjust to new faces.

Jason Klinger
4 years 6 months ago

LOL at Nick Punto being a ‘notable loss.’

4 years 6 months ago

Best defensive player we had, we will miss him on defense there’s no doubt.

wintwins
4 years 6 months ago

no believe me we wont

Bryz
4 years 6 months ago

Yes we will. Missing his offense, however…

Guest
4 years 6 months ago

gonna have to go ahead and pick a fight with you on that one . . .

4 years 6 months ago

Well that would be very stupid of you because you would lose. Punto was FAR AND AWAY the best defensive player the Twins had.

Guest
4 years 6 months ago

oooof, I WAS just joking, but it’s clear we are on opposite ends of the spectrum here, forget I said anything, haha, I’ve been down this path with other Punto believers and it goes nowhere . . . not trying to be offensive, just trying to agree to disagree, I don’t like fighting with fellow Twins fans :-)

wintwins
4 years 6 months ago

Far and away? Bold and false. Casilla, Hardy, and Hudson are all comparable. Everyone thinks he is some defensive god because he makes plays look overly difficult sometimes. Not to mention Mauer who is probably the best defensive player on the team.

PostMoBills
4 years 6 months ago

Punto was a great utility man. His downfall was Gardy playing favorites and playing him way too much, forcing fans to dislike him. I hope Twins fans don’t miss him, but ask me again if one of the middle infielders get hurt and they send Plouffe or Tolbert out there on the daily.

4 years 6 months ago

Nathan has to be quite a concern. Pretty serious injury at an advanced age. Morneau what bothers me if after all this time he is still being bothered by the concussion what are we to conclude from that.

4 years 6 months ago

Now I should add I did not like the Twins losing Ramos. I always felt they should be looking at reducing Mauers time behind the plate. You could argue Mauer was the best hitter in the AL in 2009, and I gotta believe catching was a bit of the reason for the 2010 dropoff.

wintwins
4 years 6 months ago

hmm I read things like this every year and every year they are false. Also you are going to use Thornton and Sale to consider the bullpen dominant? Sorry I’ll take Nathan and Capps

rbeezy
4 years 6 months ago

Wow, you just jinxed the White Sox. Every Sox fan has you to blame for a crappy 2011 year.

4 years 6 months ago

I can only imagine what the comment was since it was removed, but I’ll go on a limb and say it was a white sox fan running his mouth about things he knows nothing about.

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

I watched every game last year, as I have for the past 25 years. I can’t remember a regular first baseman who was worse.

spookymilk
4 years 6 months ago

It seems it was a bunch of bragging about the Sox bullpen, which is pretty hilarious, considering how it imploded last year.

The Sox fans are blindly faithful, I’ll give them that.